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Title: Mike Murase Interview II
Narrator: Mike Murase
Interviewer: Karen Umemoto
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: January 15, 2023
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-526-5

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KU: So this was... the event itself was after the, and the freeing of Mandela was after the EDA campaign. So maybe we could rewind a little and talk about Jesse's campaign, and how it was that you were introduced to the campaign, recruited to help with the campaign. I was one of the co-chairs of the L.A. campaign with Patricia Recinos in 1984, and things were very... you know what I mean? A little chaotic during that time. But it was very exciting, a lot of lessons were learned from the '84 campaign that were, went to the '88 campaign. Can you talk about, first, how did you get introduced and involved in the Jackson campaign specifically?

MM: So by that time, I was very steeped in doing work in Little Tokyo with the Anti-Eviction Task Force of Little Tokyo, People's Rights Organization, and the beginnings of the redress movement. And I also had, kind of, developed a view over time, sort of an ultra-left view that no significant change is going to come through, happen through electoral work, through voting. And so we had to have some discussions, and exchanged views about that, and I think I was persuaded by the fact that we had this African American with roots in the Civil Rights Movement, with a progressive agenda that really we should be supporting. And so just before the campaign in '83, I worked with a collective, we're like a group of people, activists nationally. So there was an internal discussion, even among Black members, of this trend, we're all convinced that Jesse should be the one that we support. Because as a messenger, as a person, he had flaws, and they were very commonly known. But through that discussion, it was decided that, yeah, we should put our resources into helping, and that that would advance our own struggle as well. Because basically, by that time, we were talking about some fundamental change in society, social justice on a magnitude, it was national, and that impacted everybody in this country. So it was a much bigger idea than I'm used to thinking about in Little Tokyo, dealing with City Hall and all of that, which I think is very important still, and we still do that. But to get, introduce the idea, I was thinking about white farmers in Iowa. They were laborers in Vermont and South Carolina, and a lot of things were going on that Jesse Jackson's, what he called the Rainbow Coalition, brought together.

And so in that, I started volunteering for the Jackson campaign in '84. Like you said, it was kind of a chaotic situation. The people that came to the campaign had very little electoral experience, whereas people like Mondale (in '84) or Dukakis (in '88), these are names that young people probably never heard of, but they were white presidential candidates who came out of the Democratic party machinery. And so they have a lot of resources of years, decades of experience in running campaigns. Jesse Jackson had none of that. So we had to learn and create everything on our own. And one of the things that we had to put together is, in the state of California at the time, there were forty-five congressional districts. And we had to reach out to all forty-five districts from Eureka to San Diego, and to meet people and to organize them into an effective campaign operation. So somehow I got put in charge of that. And I say that because, normally, in other campaigns where they have those established people, they already have the infrastructure to just make it happen, "all of you have to do this." We had to build it from scratch, but it was a fun experience, but it was very challenging as well. And I think... and this is before email, internet, computers, anyway. So what I did, we didn't have an Excel spreadsheet, but I handwrote the forty-five congressional districts, who the people were who were representing them in the Jackson camp, the phone numbers and all that, collected all that. And that kind of work, I'm good at, sort of conceptualizing how to put together operations. So I think that was recognized by the campaign, so they wanted me to keep doing that, and then even as a volunteer, giving me more and more responsibility. So it was kind of like one thing led to another.

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